A friend of mine in Indiana texted me this picture a few weeks ago. He drove by The Elzinga Farm Market, in Dyer, Indiana.
This was my family’s farm. The building you see used to be a vegetable market. Behind that was 139 acres of land which would produce the best tomatoes, sweet corn, green beans, peppers, melons, and onions you could ever imagine.
My father and his brother, my uncle, farmed this land all their lives. My Uncle’s children, six of them, and my sister and I grew up farming this land together. Our families were tied together by dirt. Deep, black, rich dirt. I still have a mason jar of that dirt by the way.
When I see this picture, I see my past. The memories flood my head and go straight to my heart.
I see my Dad, working in the field, alongside our employees picking those beans and peppers. Sweat rolling down my Dad’s face as he was pushing us all to go faster, not as a boss standing there shouting out orders, but on his knees, showing us how to do it. My Dad was fully engaged in his work and he loved it.
I see my Uncle, getting the truck ready for the market, calling people on the phone, and selling our goods. My Uncle, who was always joking and making people laugh.
I see my cousins, one driving the tractor, cultivating the fields freeing them from weeds. This same one still owns and farms this land, what’s left of it, with his sons. My other cousins, working with me in the stand, washing the peppers or beans or radishes that just came in, preparing them to be boxed and sent to market or simply putting them out on display out in front, in this building, our own Market.
My cousins and my sister and I also went to the same schools together. Christian schools. Our lives rubbed up against each other constantly. To this day, my sister’s best friend is our cousin, who lives a few miles from her in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Cousins can make such a difference in the lives of each other.
My youngest cousin told me once about 15 years ago that I taught her how to memorize scripture while we were on the farm. She told me that to this day still memorizes scripture, it is foundational to her life. What a joy, to know that something like that, which seemed like a casual thing to me, became such an influence on her life.
The Elzinga Market presence is still there, although it’s taken on a different form. Yet, at the same time, it also tells of times gone by. Times ripe with memories.
I never really enjoyed working on the farm…. I’m not a farmer like my father and my uncle. Yet, at the same time, I enjoyed being on the farm. Being with my father, being with my uncle and cousins, being in nature and all the elements. I loved learning what hard work was, and more importantly, learning the joy of work. I learned about purpose, about leadership, about diversity, about hardship, about seasons, about humor, and about challenges that come our way.
I got to see my Dad, fully alive when he worked! My Uncle’s family, such a beehive of activity. And in and through it all, there is faith. Belief in a God who is Sovereign, over all, and loving was so prominent in the lives of our families it was almost second nature. It was who we are—people of faith.
When you look back at your memories, what triggers them? Is it a picture, a song, a season, a car, a home? Is it a smell, a fragrance, a look, a style, or a phrase?
How deep do those feelings go? Can you see how those memories have shaped you?
Yes, I’ve been away from the farm for many years, many decades in fact, but the farm has always been with me, and it will be for the rest of my life, because those memories are a part of me, and of who I am.
This is a good time to reflect upon how your memories have shaped you.